The UK Ministry of Defence has announced that the three Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters deployed to Mali earlier this summer began operational flying on August 16.
The heavy-lift rotorcraft arrived in Mali on July 18 and will support French counter-terrorism operations in the West African country. The RAF Chinooks from RAF Odiham, Hampshire, are supported by around 90 British troops. UK forces have built three temporary aircraft hangars on the ground, enabling the Chinooks to fly multiple missions each week.
According to a statement from the MOD, the British helicopters are “providing niche logistical support to French combat forces conducting counter-terrorism operations as part of Operation Barkhane.”
Minister of State for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster said: “This deployment demonstrates the vital role our armed forces play, working alongside our French allies to tackle terrorism and reduce threats to European and UK security.”
The deployment is in addition to the UK’s long-standing support of UN, EU and G5 Sahel Joint Force operations in Mali aimed at preventing extremists from using the ungoverned space in the Sahel to plan and launch attacks on Europe, as well as countering the illegal trade in people, drugs, weapons and wildlife.
Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin added: “This helicopter deployment demonstrates the UK’s commitment to do more in the Sahel, alongside £50m of UK Aid providing lifesaving humanitarian support, and a bigger diplomatic network.”
Previously, the UK has supported France’s Opération Barkhane with RAF strategic transport flights.